White Crane dance takes flight

Updated: 2014-04-03 08:18

By Gao Anming, He Na and Wu Yong (China Daily)

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The perfect environment

White Crane dance takes flight

White cranes during their stay in Huanzidong, Liaoning province. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily

With a total coverage of 2,300 hectares and water coverage of 1,800 hectares, Huanzidong is much smaller than other wetlands across the world, such as the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park in Brazil, the Isimangaliso Wetlands Park in South Africa, and the Momoge Wetland in China's Jilin province.

"The experts say that having so many birds gathered in such a relatively small area provides the perfect environment for bird-watching," said Feng Shouquan, secretary of the Faku county Party committee.

Every spring and autumn, Huanzidong is paradise for the birds. The blue skies are decorated with white clouds, the clear water stretches seemingly endlessly, and the wetland banks are overgrown with reeds in which white cranes shelter or soar high above on outstretched wings.

According to Party secretary Feng, in addition to the white cranes, about 190 species of bird are known to nest and breed in Huanzidong, and 27 of them - including hooded cranes, red-crowned cranes, Oriental white storks and highland guans - are on the national level protection list.

"We have worked out strict regulations to protect Huanzidong and build it into an important international wetland. We also plan to return some 1,300 hectares of farmland surrounding Huanzidong to wetland and make the park a well-facilitated tourist resort to promote environmental protection, education and entertainment within five years," Feng said.

"A good environment and large numbers of birds will result in more visitors and indirectly promote tourism and our economy to benefit local people," he added.

Chen Mingzhong, director of the Faku Forest Bureau, said: "We have strengthened our crackdown on behavior that is harmful to the birds and the wetland. In addition to supervision from the forest police, we have also employed staff to patrol the region every day. Farmers in the surrounding villagers established a voluntary bird and wetlands protection association, which has played an important role in protecting the environment during recent years."

Zhenzijie village resident Wang Zhenyou is one of the farmers in question. The self-confessed bird lover first volunteered to protect the avian visitors in the 1980s.

"In the 1980s, the area of wetland was much bigger than it is now. When you stood near the bank in the migratory season, the white cranes would stand on your arms to eat the corn seeds you held in your hands," recalled the 75-year-old.

"Our association has 22 people now. The patrol region is huge, but for the sake of the birds, we all volunteered to help. In the early years, my family didn't understand me, but now they are all very supportive. Several years ago, we regularly found birds trapped in the reeds and often caught people who hunted them illegally. Thanks to the movement to raise protection awareness, we see a lot less illegal behavior nowadays," he added.